Film Review : The Great Gatsby

[FIRST PUBLISHED ON THE MODERN WOMANS SURVIVAL GUIDE]

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There’s no denying that anyone who has the guts to take one of the most classic novels in American literature, F.Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 ‘The Great Gatsby’ and imagine it according to their own unique vision, has a tremendous amount of courage! Baz Luhrmann armed with his multi-million dollar budget, cast of Hollywood’s finest and CGI technology successfully creates his own original Luhrmann-esque masterpiece which ultimately emphasises ludicrous bedazzlement over dramatic, emotional integrity.

Narrated retrospectively by Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) from a sanitarium, the script focuses on the boy’s arrival to New York in the early 1920’s when he moves into a small cottage right next to a massive mansion. When he meets the mysterious incredibly wealthy owner of this mansion Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), the two naturally become friends and Nick is whisked away into a new world of extravagance and expensive parties, but of course there is more at play here; think hidden romantic agendas and painful passions.

The production and costume design are incredibly astonishing and detailed, which can only be expected given it’s a Luhrmann film (think Romeo + Juliet or Moulin Rouge). Not only are they visually stunning, but they reproduce the detail of the roaring 20’s whilst evoking the film’s themes and elements of particular character’s traits.

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The Valley of Ashes, the industrial wasteland situated between West Egg and New York, is ever so bleak creating a distinct contrast between the world of the rich party-goers and the working class. In juxtaposition Gatsby’s mansion is both so full of extravagant energy, yet so hollow and empty.

The crazy elaborate party scenes taking place here are a true visual standout. Through the use of rapid editing, frenzied montages and incredible camera-work, Luhrmann zips through the swirling high-society of the roaring 20’s in a way which will leave an audience astounded and unsure of where to look.

The soundtrack produced by Jay-Z is another highly unique element of this film. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined a hip-hop meets jazz combination working, yet it strangely works. The soundtrack featuring the voices of Jay-Z himself, Beyonce, Fergie, Lana Del Ray, Will.I.Am, Florence and The Machine (just to name a few); adds a modern spin to the jazz age, that is definitely worth a listen outside the cinema as well!

Gatsby1Given the star-studded cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Carey Mulligan, Isla Fisher, Tobey Maguire and Elizabeth Debicki; strong performances are most definitely expected from this film! And the performances are mostly strong.

Tobey Maguire in his narration delivers Fitzgerald’s prose wonderfully, Aussie Joel Edgerton encapsulates the entitled brutish nature of Tom Buchanan and Isla Fisher is superb as Buchanan’s mistress Myrtle.

Leonardo DiCaprio is fitting as Gatsby, both magnificent and insecure; however, he may have overused the term “Old Sport” one, or two, times too many. Carey Mulligan as Daisy whilst perfect in appearance was quite underwhelming.

All the performances, lack in one major thing: emotion. Whether, they were robbed of displaying such emotion from the constant cuts and camera soars clearing the action for sweeping cityscapes never allowing the close-ups to hold long enough to evoke emotions, I’m not sure. What I am sure of, is that there wasn’t enough emotive appeal from the characters, the emotional depth and tragic romance at the core of Fitzgerald’s prose lost amongst the amazing aesthetics.

Luhrmann has definitely left his own mark on this adaption of The Great Gatsby, and did anyone really expect less from him? Subtlety never has been his specialty. The film almost looks as though it is made by Gatsby himself, its expensive, extravagant yet hollow and lacking in emotion.

I’d give it a solid 5.5 out of 10 stars. Don’t get me wrong Luhrmann’s version is definitely far from boring. And if you are up to see a spectacle, fabulous costumes, and some amazing visuals it is definitely worth seeing. However, if it’s a lyrical emotive tale of tragic romance obsession and secrecy you are after then F.Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel is probably more for you.

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Lights, Camera, ACTION!

On Friday the 10th of May, the day finally arrived, it was shoot day for our film “Where is Pierre?”. Shooting in the first week had meant we had to be super organised and prepared, the week leading up to the shoot super busy and filled with minor dilemmas. By shoot day, all problems were solved, props were purchased, everyone knew what was going on, rehearsals had taken place, our actors had been made aware of the schedule and we were ready to finally see the film we had worked so hard on meticulously preparing come to life. I arrived on set at 7am and the majority of my group were already there setting up at a quick pace in order to stick to be as efficient as possible, as one of our actors Jeremy had to be finished by 5.pm due to other commitments.

As soon as our actors arrived we got them straight into make-up, and due to one of the actors being 15 minutes late to set we asked her if it was possible for her to work as fast as possible, which she was happy to do. The make-up turned out great too, the make-up artist Kimberlee used latex make-up to age the actors since we had cast a lot younger actors than we had originally anticipated. The results were amazing both the actors truly looking realistically much older and wrinkled than they actually were. As the actors were in make-up half of us began setting up the lights, set and equipment, whilst Sarah and I began taking pictures of the dog Bella  who would be playing ‘Pierre’ to place in frames around the house. I had brought a portable, instant photo printer along so this would be a quick job; and so we could get photos of the dog with the actors as well. However, after printing only 5 photos the printer ran out of ink! Our first problem of the day. We decided to just go and buy more ink, we were ahead of schedule, the actors were still in make-up and we had time. So I drove down to Officeworks in peak hour traffic, only to discover the ink for this particular printer isn’t carried by Officeworks any more and can only be ordered online. I returned to set after the unsuccessful venture, and decided we had two options: drive back down to Officeworks and print of the photos using their printer or just use the same 5 photos  we had of Bella all around the house during the various scenes. After all, we had been told that audiences don’t notice these things. So with our 1st AD Steph pushing us to get a move on, we decided just to use what we had and commence filming.

We then got (or more so attempted to) get our actors into their costumes, Helen had a laugh about the daggy costuming and had even brought along ugg boots to complete the ensemble and Jeremy refusing to wear the costume we had purchased  as he felt what he was wearing was more than adequate. Not wanting to begin the day with difficulties we just decided to leave it and get a move on. 9 am arrived and we commenced shooting. We quickly shot an exterior of the house as an establishing shot, then moved into the living room to commence the shots involving the dog as not only did we feel these could be the most difficult, getting them out of the way as soon as possible meant we wouldn’t have to keep the dog Bella on set all day. Bella was a little Pomeranian cross something, dog who was not only perfect for the role, but such a delight to work with. She was so quiet and calm, did not bark once and was happy to be held or played with by anyone. The scenes with her done quite quickly and a lot easier than we were expecting. Who said you should never work with animals?

970568_10152924325155725_1026593330_nThe day was off to a good start, and we were actually running on schedule! We moved on to the living room scenes, majority of the film taking place within the setting. The set was all designed and set up with our props and was looking fantastic, just as we’d imagined it. Then just as we were ready to go for the first take, Jeremy piped up with questions as to why the radio which we had placed on the table was facing the camera and not the actors, as to him it just seemed ‘illogical’. Unwilling to accept our argument that it was more aesthetically pleasing for the shot that way he continued rising, and tensions and stress levels began to rise. At least 15 minutes later, we had still not gone for a take; we all at some point chimed in in attempts to get the ball rolling; which was not the most professional thing to do and we soon learned to leave it to either our director Gianna or first AD Steph to speak on behalf of us all. Eventually, we managed to go for a take, slightly behind schedule and a lot more stressed out than before, but still ready to move past it. At this point we were all hoping that this would be the end of all difficulties, but still worried that this shoot could be quite hard if the actor was going to be constantly arguing and trying to take control. Unfortunately, the latter of the two ended up being the reality of our shoot, which soon became a very stressful and tense environment.

Luckily, we had a very solid, hardworking team and Gianna had a very clear vision of what she wanted the film to look like, one she was not willing to compromise, thankfully!  We persevered throughout the day and learnt how best to deal with the actor being so difficult, it made it a ton better that our female actress was so enthusiastic about everything and such a delight to work with also. Throughout the day we worked efficiently, and managed to fit in all the shots that we had wanted to get, including experimental shots such as a tracking dolly pan, a faux jib-arm shot, and a push-pull zoom. We definitely had a ton of coverage that we could play around with in post that was for sure!

Throughout the day, we also were faced with a few sound issues. Our location located on a main road which a lot of trucks use particularly in the morning combined with some sort of construction occurring across the road, meant that there was a lot of background noise we feared could compromise the audio we had recorded. We also had a slight problem with one of the cords which was a bit loose, which we solved by switching cords. Another thing we definitely learnt from the shoot was to bring a lot of spare batteries, as we ran out multiple times!

We called it a wrap at roughly 5pm, having achieved all the shots we wanted and experiencing a mixture of emotions; everyone both drained yet sufficiently relieved and excited to see what the footage would look like once it was logged and transferred.

I was really proud of my group, we worked really hard and efficiently on the shoot day; everyone really encouraging of each other despite difficulties. We were also really lucky to have extra help on our shoot, with Gianna’s sister helping as a boom operator, Steph Milsom keeping us all on track and dealing with the actors and a fair amount of hell as our first AD and Hayden helping out as a logger and general problem solver there to fix any thing that would go wrong.

Overall I learnt a great deal from the shoot, and think we can all agree that any actor we are ever to work with in the future will definitely seem easy compared to what we dealt with during the production of this shoot! I think we did a really great job, and actually can not wait to view and begin the post-production of our film.

FILM REVIEW :: OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

[FIRST PUBLISHED ON  THE MODERN WOMAN’S SURVIVAL GUIDE]

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A prequel? To the all time classic, much loved Wizard of Oz, 74 years later? Surely this has got to be some purely dangerous territory! Done wrong and the dreams and memories built upon generations could be absolutely crushed; yet director Sam Raimi has taken the risk and instead creates a visually rhapsodic fantasy full of nostalgic bliss.

Oz The Great and Powerful is the story of how L. Frank Baum’s cherished wizard character came to be. Oscar Diggs (James Franco) a small-time circus magician and smooth talking con man is whirled away in a tornado from Kansas to the wonderful, vibrant Land of Oz.

Here he encounters Theodora (Mila Kunis) a temperamental witch who assumes him to be the ‘Wizard’ prophesised to fall from the sky, defeat a wicked witch and ascend to the throne. Theodora takes Oscar to the Emerald City to meet her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz), a powerful witch who reveals that he cannot become the rightful ruler of Oz until he’s accomplished his mission.

Tempted by the promise of wealth and power, Oscar agrees and he and his new flying-monkey companion Finley (voice of Zach Braff) prepare to face their fearsome enemy. They are joined by the fragile but fearless China Girl (voiced by Joey King) and kindly witch Glinda the Good (Michelle Williams), who help them prepare for the gruelling battle ahead. Together with the brave people of Oz, Oscar draws up a plan through the use of illusion to rid the land of evil once and for all, and become the great and powerful king who will rule from his throne in the Emerald City.

AAAimagesI’ll be honest, entering the cinema I did not have high hopes for the movie, it almost seemed doomed for failure and the initial Kansas sequence filled with overly dramatic and corny acting from the actors surprisingly including that of the leading man James Franco seemed to fit in with these expectations.

Nevertheless, as Oscar Diggs descended into Oz, the box screen expanded and the monochromatic tones were replaced with ever so bright ones; hope for the film was restored. The graphics of Oz were simply astounding, perhaps even more so than those of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

Every last inch of the frame filled with stunning visual details in the most vibrant of hues truly encapsulating the enchantment of the beloved Land of Oz. As the film progressed, Franco’s acting did get better and I really began to believe him in the role of the Wizard. The witches’ performances were quite good, particularly those of Rachel Weisz as Evanora and Michelle Williams as Glinda who truly seemed to be having fun with their roles. However, Finley the adorable flying monkey voiced by Scrubs’ Zach Braff stole the show for me; responsible for not only some of the most humorous lines within the film, but also some of the most heart felt.

Despite being unable to use some of the most iconic elements of the 1939 Wizard of Oz due to legal reasons (including the ruby slippers, the shade of green of the wicked witch’s skin, the witch’s chin mole and the swirl of the yellow brick road); the film did a good job at incorporating intertextual references so reminiscent of the great classic.

Despite my initial assumptions, I was won over by the sensational graphics, enchantment; plot twists and the sense of nostalgia I was left with. It is the kind of movie that is easy to watch and by its end will have brought a smile to your face (several times!). The only thing I would have loved to see was some more musical numbers. Warning: Oz The Great and Powerful is not a musical. Nevertheless, it earns a solid 5.5 stars, an enchanting film fitting for any age group.

FILM REVIEW: I AM ELEVEN

[FIRST PUBLISHED ON  THE MODERN WOMAN’S SURVIVAL GUIDE]

“I’ve always dreamed there would be no borders – that the world would just be one country. That way, there will be no more inequalities.” – Remi, 11, France

I Am Eleven is the first feature documentary by Genevieve Bailey founder of Proud Mother Pictures. After being in a serious car accident and having her dad pass away, she was in a difficult place and not feeling content in life. Her aim became to make something that would simply make not only herself but also her audiences happy.

Thinking back to her favourite age in life, when she was eleven and wondering what being eleven was like today; Genevieve set off on a world wide adventure, that would take several years, to talk to eleven year olds across the globe, their individual personalities, similarities and differences further inspiring the film.

Focusing on a series of eleven year olds from fifteen diverse countries I Am Eleven is an incredibly well made documentary filled with beautiful shots and vivid colouring. It paints a visually striking and thought provoking portrait of humanity at such a crucial in between age, not yet adults but at the same time not quite children.

Showing the world through the most innocent of eyes and each of the kids so diverse, Bailey introduces us to: Indian girls living in an orphanage, a French boy with wisdom beyond his eleven years, Muslim rappers living in Sweden, an Aboriginal girl who lives with her for a day, a bullied British boy, a Czech girl who dreams of becoming a secret agent, a bubbly American girl and many more. The children’s stories perfectly and gracefully interwoven with each other.

The film offers a glimpse into the minds of these eleven-year olds world wide, as in their own language they each share and ponder a range of subjects; from love, to war, to terrorism, to environmental issues, religion, family and the future. The raw honesty, beautiful naivety and innocence of their various reactions will have you experiencing a wide spectrum of emotions from awe, to laughter, hope and sympathy.

The camera creates a sense of warmth and intimacy with the children, despite the close proximity with the children, it is never intrusive and their reactions never feel forced. The pure optimism of each of the children is astounding, even for the ones forced to mature, burdened with more than any eleven year old should ever have to bear. Their differences are able to be transcended as they all have that one crucial element in common; despite their diversities of lifestyle, personality and circumstance, they all are linked, they are all eleven.

I Am Eleven is a remarkably sweet film, it achieves what Genevieve Bailey set out to do and so much more. Not only will it make audiences happy and entertained, it will leave you with a sense of nostalgia, remembering what things were like when you were eleven as well as feeling a connection to each of the distinctly remarkable children. It is definitely one of the best documentaries I have seen in a long time and I would highly recommend it to people of all ages – it’s a definite must see earning a solid nine out of ten stars.

To meet the children, share your stories from when you were eleven, find out more about the film or discover where you can view it, check out the official website here.

I AM ELEVEN documentary – official trailer from I Am Eleven on Vimeo.

Film Review: Hysteria

[FIRST PUBLISHED ON THE MODERN WOMAN’S SURVIVAL GUIDE]

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Hysteria directed by Tanya Wexler is an offbeat, mischievous romantic comedy set in Victorian England during 1880, a time when germs were thought by most to be a mere myth, people pondered whether an invention like the telephone would ever take off and any problem a women should have from insomnia to disturbing thoughts was attributed to the catch-all ailment of ‘Hysteria’. The film tells the story how the invention that is known today as the vibrator came about.

From the outset of the film the words appearing on screen “Based on a true story, really” establish the films lighthearted nature. It follows Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) an idealistic young doctor with modern ideas who takes a position in the office of Dr Robert Dalyrmple (Jonathon Pryce) who runs a clinic for women, specialising in a particular “intimate massage” type treatment to cure the highly common “disease” of hysteria.

Mortimer quickly becomes popular among his patients who feel ever so much better after their treatment, however soon Mortimer’s hands become strained. His inventor friend the impressive and wealthy Edmund St John Smythe (a role Rupert Everett was born to play) suggests an alternative; an electric massager. But will the treatment have the same effect using this device?

A romantic twist furthers the plot as Granville courts one of Dalyrmple’s daughters (Felicity Price) a very prim and proper young women who lives according to the Victorian conventions of decorum and would make the perfect wife, yet there is a strange attraction between Mortimer and Dalyrymple’s other rebellious crusading daughter (Maggie Gyllenhall) who is a social reformer running a settlement house and the opposite of her sister in every way.

Hysteria is a lighthearted film that plays with the social mores of its era. The actors are all perfect fits for their parts and expertly approach each of their individual roles with complete seriousness, with the exclusion of Everett who has fun with his role and makes it work. Tanya Wexler hits the nail on the head with her ensemble, tackling the delicate subject matter in a manner that is funny, debonair and visually discreet.

Overall it is a very enjoyable film that is easy to watch, and good for a few laughs. I would give it a solid 6 out of 10 stars – it truly is a great film to watch with a couple of girlfriends.

HER MORNING ELEGANCE

I tend to watch alot, alot, alot of different videos on youtube, most of them generally either comedic or music videos. The video above entitled “Her Morning Elegance” is one of my ultimate favourites, a video that I find quite inspiring. Whilst a music video by Oren Lavie it is not the song as such that captivates me most about this video. Made by the talented Yucal and Nerav Nathan alongside Oren himself the video is ever so carefully carefully crafted. The stop motion film which features the sharp photography of Eyal Landesman, is 3:36 in length and being a stop-motion sequence the video is made up of entirely still shots, roughly 3225 still photos for the entire video!! Even more fascinatingly, after weeks and weeks of preparation it was all shot within just 2 days.

The high angle which majority of the shots are taken from, really sets up the mattress as a canvas for the dream like state of the woman with the striking orange hair; the continuity of the same angle creating such a fluidity and ease to the flow of the images that on first viewing one could think it was just plain film. Very well planned, the video utilises props quite wittily. These props ordinary objects you would find in a bedroom such as socks and pillows and manipulates their movements to create the witty illusion of them being something else.; such as pillows as clouds, and socks as little fish. The movements, rhythm and pace of the visuals all coinciding perfectly with the soundtrack.

This video will always remain one of my ultimate favourite videos, it is the video which sparked my initial fascination with stop-motion and even inspired me to create my own.

‘Her Morning Elegance” is a clever work of art, that is quite simply captivating.